Nutrition for High School and College Athletes

For many athletes, you spend all day at school before heading to practice for an evening of training. Improper eating throughout the day will make you prone to an “afternoon slump” even before practice has started. Eating right all day, especially on days you work out will help you maintain your energy throughout your practice and allow your body to properly repair after a long day.

 Tips for a healthy breakfast

Breakfast is hard for most people, so find a quick and easy meal that you can grab to eat quickly at home or take to eat on the way to school. Combine proteins and complex carbohydrates to keep you full and focused. Avoid sugary foods like many smoothies that are not made at home, pastries, or donuts. Also, avoid processed food and many protein powders that have unnatural ingredients that are hard to digest.

 Tips for a healthy lunch

Lunch is often the last meal you have before your practice. You want to eat a balanced meal full of complex carbohydrates to keep you full and allow your body to slowly burn the carbohydrates providing you with energy. Examples of a healthy lunch include:

  • Whole wheat pasta or brown rice with vegetables and meat
  • A sandwich on whole wheat bread with meat, vegetables, and mustard
  • Fruit and yogurt with granola

 What to eat right before practice

About an hour before is the perfect time for a small healthy snack high in fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates to keep you feeling energized without being too heavy.

  • Nuts like almonds, cashews, or pecans
  • A piece of fruit
  • Whole grain crackers and cheese
  • Hummus and vegetables
  • Natural energy bars or homemade granola bars

 What not to eat right before practice

Sugary high-fat snacks are easy to grab on the go, but will make you feel sluggish while dancing and can cause cramping. Avoid candy bars, cookies, potato chips, and French fries. Even some granola bars are full of sugar and provide little nutrition.

 What to eat after practice

After a strenuous workout, overworked muscles need protein to repair fibers and prevent soreness.

  • Meat or fish with vegetables are ideal
  • If pizza is for dinner, thin crust with vegetables is the smartest option
  • If you are left to cook for yourself, a quesadilla with cheese and left-over chicken and vegetables makes a great quick meal
  • Ice cream does not make a good dinner on its own, but after a healthy meal, a small serving of this calcium rich dessert is okay occasionally

 Other tips

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Water is best. Beware of most sports drinks and energy drinks as they are also full of sugar, and the caffeine in energy drinks can affect your sleep.

Avoid skipping meals. Athletes burn a lot of calories in class which should be replenished with healthy nutrients to get the best out of practice.